The one image from Wrestlemania 38 that will stick with me wasn’t Roman Reigns holding two titles belts or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin hitting the Stone Cold Stunner move on Vince McMahon.

Rather, it’s an image of bright lights shining across AT&T Stadium, flooding the arena. The big jumbotron at the center of the stadium gleams with the Wrestlemania logo. “Sacrifice” by The Weeknd blares from the stadium speakers. The spotlights dance around the arena, glittering on the stage and wrestling ring in the center.

There was no moment that told me more about the state of professional wrestling — that pro wrestling isn’t merely a sport or sports entertainment. It’s the modern-day circus.

Wrestlemania is the premier pro wrestling event. Every year, World Wrestling Entertainment gathers its best superstars for a single night to compete. This is where the biggest wrestlers in the industry compete on the biggest stage. ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other major sports outlets cover the big-time event because it means more than anything else. It’s both the season finale for WWE programming, which lasts throughout the year, and the beginning of a new era in wrestling.

It’s where we’ve seen Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock, Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, John Cena vs. The Rock, Triple H vs. Undertaker. It’s the showcase of the immortals. It’s where immovable objects meet irresistible forces. It’s where boyhood dreams come true.

I’ve watched Wrestlemania from my home over the last 22 years, since I’ve been a fan of pro wrestling. I’ve missed a few of the events over the years, but I always try to catch highlights. Each year feels different than the last as WWE hypes up its latest stars. But I never attended an event until this year. I have family in Dallas, Texas, which made it a no-brainer to travel out there after a work assignment in Austin this past weekend.

Photo of WrestleMania 38 from AT&T Stadium.
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Stepping up to AT&T Stadium, it was clear this wasn’t anything like a concert. This was a show. Huge banners hung off the front of the arena. Major screens previewed the matches to come. A giant championship belt was propped up outside. Fans walked around with gold championship belts hanging off their shoulders. One of these fans held six title belts in his hands, parading around like he had just captured the title for himself.

Inside, it was no different. People from all walks of life gathered together to see the spectacle. A DJ played music for an hour beforehand, hyping up the crowd. Lights glowed around the arena. Colors and bright lights shone every which way.

When the event began, each match felt like its own spectacle. Seeing it in person, it became more clear this wasn’t like a wrestling event in a bingo hall or at The Gateway in Salt Lake City. Each match was like a performance at a circus. Instead of the bearded lady, you had the bearded Triple H speaking to the crowd after his recent retirement announcement. Instead of a ring leader, you had WWE chairman Vince McMahon wrestling former Indianapolis Colts kicker Pat McAfee.

All the while, there were lights streaming across the stadium. The glitz and glamor were on full display as wrestling showed off its best talent, matches and entertainment.

From the couch, WWE and Wrestlemania seem like a major experience. But you don’t get a full understanding of that experience until you’re there in person. You see the giant stage, the huge props, the fancy outfits. You see wrestlers use Lamborghini cars to get to the ring. You watch fiery pyro explode before a superstar enters the ring.

It’s more than a pro wrestling event. It’s more than sports. Wrestlemania was proof that wrestling is the modern-day circus — a spectacle of an event that puts on a wild show for all to be entertained. Anyone who was in attendance that night understood how much of a show everything was and how fun it was to experience the entire entertainment event.

I hope one day I can return to Wrestlemania because there’s truly nothing like it. The event is indeed a showcase of the immortals and it’s a spectacle that all need to see.